Insight Orthopedics & Sports Medicine – Plantar fasciitis is a common condition that causes heel and arch pain in one or both feet. Although it can affect anyone, it is more common among athletes and people who spend a lot of time on their feet. The plantar fascia is a thick band of tissue that connects the heel bone to the toes and acts as a shock absorber when we walk, jump, and move our feet. 

Through overuse, strain, or even the shape of your foot, this tissue can become inflamed, cause severe pain, and even limit mobility. If you experience pain in the bottom of your foot that seems to get worse after exercising or when you walk after an extended period of rest, you may have plantar fasciitis. Researchers believe as many as 10% of people will experience this condition at some point in their lifetime. 

Dealing with chronic foot pain is frustrating, especially when you’re active. The good news is, there are many nonsurgical treatments that can help you find relief and even prevent pain from returning. When treated properly, plantar fasciitis symptoms usually go away after a few months. From simple rest and stretches to physical therapy, here are eight solutions for every level of plantar fasciitis that you should consider if chronic foot pain is getting in the way of your daily activities. 

Although it may seem obvious, many people overlook the importance of rest when it comes to managing plantar fasciitis. Because this condition is related to overuse, rest should be the first step in treating your chronic pain. Taking as much time as possible to avoid strenuous use, such as athletic activity or work that requires excessive walking or standing, will give your foot time to heal and prevent long-term complications and pain. 

While you’re resting, grab an ice pack. This is another simple and effective way to experience immediate relief from plantar fasciitis. Although ice therapy may be a temporary solution, regular use will help to reduce inflammation over time so you can return to your regular activities pain free. Many patients have found success placing a package of frozen vegetables in a bag and positioning it on the foot in 15-minute intervals. The small size of the veggies allows the bag to cover the contours of the foot better than a traditional ice pack, leading to faster results.    

Stretching is also a proven method to manage plantar fasciitis pain, especially after long periods of rest or strenuous foot use. Patients usually get the most relief when they take time to stretch throughout the day. Although there are many exercises you can do to find relief, stretching the calf muscle by standing on a step and letting your heels hang off the edge is effective for many people. Also try rolling a frozen water bottle back and forth with the affected foot for five to ten minutes. For more, check out Prevention magazine’s interactive guide to managing plantar fasciitis through stretching and exercises. 

Orthotics & Comfortable Shoes
If you’re dealing with chronic foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis, your physician may recommend orthotic shoe inserts, heel pads, compression socks, or night splints to help you manage discomfort. Many of these products can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies; however, they can also be custom made for your feet by specialty orthotics suppliers. There are many ineffective products on the market, so it’s important to ask your physician for recommendations that will help you manage pain properly and without disrupting your healing process. 

In addition to orthotics, wearing comfortable shoes and replacing shoes that are showing signs of wear can also make a noticeable difference in managing pain from plantar fasciitis. Runners and athletes should replace shoes yearly and everyone else should regularly assess their shoes, replacing them as needed. Signs you may need to replace your shoes include worn outsoles, stretched heels, and damage to the insoles and interior. 

Change Your Workout Routine
For athletes and active people, staying off your feet for a long period of time to manage chronic foot pain may not be an option. Fortunately, there are many lower-impact options that will allow you to stay active without making your foot pain worse. Strength training allows you to target specific areas of your body without causing further harm to painful areas. Biking, swimming, and yoga are other options that won’t put stress on your feet. Remember, it’s always a good idea to speak to a healthcare professional for guidance before altering your exercise routine. 

Weight Loss

Excess body weight adds strain to your feet and is one of the leading causes of plantar fasciitis. However, being active and losing weight while suffering from foot pain can be a challenge for many people. Fortunately, studies find that even modest weight loss of five to ten pounds may significantly improve pressure and pain that can cause plantar fasciitis. By working with your physician to develop a long-term plan that is centered on a balanced diet and regular exercise, you should notice foot pain relief and other health benefits as well! 

Physical Therapy
If you’re suffering from chronic foot pain, you should also consider physical therapy. A physical therapist can help people with plantar fasciitis reduce their discomfort, improve their ability to walk, and achieve faster recovery. Physical therapists are also trained to evaluate movement dysfunction and will consider all of the factors contributing to your pain, such as flat foot and overuse. Taking this information and your feedback into consideration, your physical therapist will develop a customized plan with exercises for daily support that will help you achieve long-term relief and prevent recurring symptoms that plantar fasciitis patients commonly experience. 

Cortisone Shots
If conservative treatments are unable to reduce chronic pain from plantar fasciitis, your physician may suggest cortisone injections. With this method, a doctor uses a small needle to inject a steroid into the affected area. Depending on the severity of your symptoms, most patients see results within one to two days.

Although cortisone treatments only offer temporary relief, they are generally effective in helping people suffering from debilitating foot pain get back on their feet to perform stretches and physical therapy. Like any medicine, cortisone injections come with some risks and side effects, including dizziness, headaches, and even nerve damage. However, if your pain is unbearable and you need fast relief, this is generally a safe next step for most people. 

Plantar fasciitis is a painful condition that is common for athletes and those who are on their feet for long periods of time. Fortunately, if you suffer from this condition, you do not need to live with chronic discomfort. There are many nonsurgical treatment options that will help you find relief and get you back on your feet again. 

It is always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any treatment or self-care plan to get an accurate diagnosis and to be sure it is safe for your condition. If you are suffering from foot pain caused by plantar fasciitis and are interested in more information on treatment options, contact Insight Orthopedics and Sports Medicine today to schedule an appointment.